When a creative writing student transferred to App State, he struggled to find time at school to write. After noticing a shortage of writing clubs on campus, he decided to start his own.
Daniel Ham, a junior, founded Author’s Atmosphere, a club providing a space for writers to share their creative works while setting aside time for individuals to engage in their creative processes.
“For the most part, it’s just people working on projects that they maybe hope to publish one day or just for fun,” Ham said. “I know a few people who never consider becoming a writer as a profession, but they love it so much they must have time to come and do it.”
Club member Rowan Riggs is a high school major and avid writer. They said they joined the club to have a fixed schedule for their writing and to get more input from other writers.
“Having an excuse to sit down for 30 minutes, without procrastination, is very helpful to me,” Riggs said. “And I love being part of a community and learning from other people’s perspectives.”
During the first half of club meetings, members spend about 30 minutes immersing themselves in their creative work. Ham said the second half of meetings is more social, where members break into small groups to swap pieces and discuss each story’s progress. At the end of each meeting, the group engages in a guided discussion where Ham brings up a topic and the group shares his personal insights.
Riggs said that as future educators, they like to hear their peers’ perspectives on what they wish had been incorporated into their middle school curriculum. They said the club has been a great source for those comments.
Club member Wells Whitman, a sophomore in English with a concentration in creative writing, was in Ham’s class when he first proposed the idea for the club. Whitman said he was on board immediately and working on songs he was writing, short stories and projects related to his lessons at the club.
“I love putting words to paper, and there’s a lot of freedom and creativity you can have with creative writing, especially with all the people here,” Whiteman said. “There are people to share it with who care about what you do, and you care about what they do.”
Thanks to Author’s Atmosphere, Ham said he overcame the fear of sharing his written works.
“I can share my work with, you know, a buddy right next to me, and he’ll read it. And we are friends. So if he says, ‘this part really sucks,’ I don’t take it to heart,” Ham said. “It’s the real thing that helped me improve.”
Aaron Lamb is working on his Masters in Social Work and is an active member of Author’s Atmosphere. Lamb said he joined the club to plan some socializing and writing time during his busy week as a graduate student.
“It’s about having a creative space to think about issues and write interesting stories, and being empathetic to people who maybe don’t even exist,” Lamb said of his love for art. creative writing and his initiative to join the club.
Lamb said he has no intention of publishing his works, but simply enjoys the creative process, curating stories and worlds that reflect his interests.
“I just write them for myself,” Lamb said. “For me, it’s just a way of working on fun and interesting concepts in my head.”
Lamb creates new worlds by creating his own fantastic stories that are written from certain tabletop role-playing games. He’s working on a room that exists in the Dungeons & Dragons realm.
Ham said his affinity for creative writing stems from the ability it gives him to create fantasy worlds simply by stringing the right words together. He said he loved that writing gave creators the freedom to explore those worlds.
“I love creating worlds and kind of making the rules inside those worlds yourself,” Ham said.
Ham said Author’s Atmosphere welcomes all types of writers. The club has a wide variety of writers ranging from songwriters, playwrights, video game plotters, poets and fiction writers.
“It’s completely open to anyone who wants to write. And by joining, you’ll meet other people who have the same passion, and you’ll learn and learn from that,” said Mackenzie Sigmon, a junior English student with a concentration in creative writing.
Lamb advises anyone on the fence about joining the club to attend at least two meetings to feel the club and the community of writers it provides.
“Come to two meetings because it can be a little weird your first time. And it can be a bit difficult, like breaking through a band,” Lamb said. “But I’m sure by the time you finish your second session you know whether or not you really want to stick it out for a few more.”
This year, several club members participated in the NaNoWriMo, an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, a non-profit organization that hosts a writing challenge every November. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.
Sigmon participated in NaNoWriMo last year. This was Sigmon’s first year in the contest and she completed 50,000 words in a month.
“By November 1, I had my whole story planned out, and this is the one I stuck with for the whole month as I hit the 50,000 word goal,” Sigmon said. “I reached the goal and finished NaNoWriMo, but the book is still being written.”
Riggs has participated in the NaNoWriMo for the past eight years. Last year, they completed a 600-page children’s fantasy novel.
Riggs said NaNoWriMo combined with the club had a positive impact on their songwriting. They said the club provides a more concrete timeline and, like NaNoWriMo, it stops overthinking during the writing process.
Ham emphasizes that Author’s Atmosphere is for everyone and encourages writers of all degrees to come to the club to create and socialize. The club meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the Wired Scholar in the Belk Library.